Ireland will deploy its Special Forces unit, the Army Rangers, to Mali to support U.N. operations within the country. This a positive move for Ireland, as it will deepen ties with Europe and the U.N., and allows the elite Irish units to be truly tested in what is regarded as the most dangerous U.N. mission in the world.
The Irish Army Rangers are a highly-trained unit that spent the majority of its time training alongside European partners. They train for such things as counter terrorism, counterinsurgency, and all the other good Special Forces stuff. Now the real question is: are they ready? I guess the same could be said before any unit deploys on operations. I’ve no doubt this elite Irish regiment take the mission seriously. The regiment will undergo an in-depth pre-deployment training package to allow operators to up-to-speed on the current situation in Mali and the tactics used by the likes of al-Qaeda and ISIS within the region.
Mali is a difficult place in which to have a first deployment. Geographically, the area is predominantly flat desert into some high, short, and sharp mountain regions, without much access to water and food or anything else for that matter. This place is what Mars would look and feel like.
Now according to the Irish press, the Rangers will send a 12-man team to conduct long-range patrols as part of a counter-terrorism strategy. The real questions are how effective this team is and how much of a difference this small team will make. I think on a large scale, the team will have little difference in the overall security situation. Regardless, the effort will undoubtedly be a positive one for the team to have this type of operational tempo to conduct counter-terrorism activity in what I would regard as the most dangerous conflict in the world.
No amount of training or pre-deployment packages could prepare you for what these men will face in Mali. There’s high risk of IEDs, indirect fire, and ambushes. They’ll be up against well-trained and organized groups that know no boundaries. These groups can operate across borders and at this time, seem to have an unlimited number of weapons at their disposal. The Irish Army Rangers are in for hard time..
This is also positive move for the Malian government, as these Special Operation troops won’t be there to train or advise. The job is to actively seek out terrorists and bandits operating in the north and middle regions of the country. The Malian government said previously it doesn’t need more training troops: what it needs is more troops, armored vehicles, and helicopters to conduct offensive operations to help lower the risk to the civilian population.
Personally, I don’t think Ireland will be in a position to provide the requested military equipment. Nevertheless, deploying its best unit to conduct offensive operations is a pro-active move for both countries.